Former Republican candidate and bankruptcy attorney Brad Dempsey takes the helm at Tattered Cover — for now

The store has seen multiple transitions in recent years.
3 min. read
The Tattered Cover’s Colfax Avenue location in Congress Park. Dec. 3, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Bankruptcy attorney Brad Dempsey, who ran as a Republican for Ed Perlmutter's seat in the 7th Congressional District but failed to collect enough signatures to make the 2022 ballot, will take over as Colorado independent bookstore Tattered Cover's latest interim CEO.

Dempsey, who has not been a major player in state politics, failed to collect enough valid signatures and then sued Secretary of State Jena Griswold for a slot on the ballot, arguing her ruling was wrong. The suit did not work, and he did not appear on the ballot.

A seasoned bankruptcy and restructuring attorney, Dempsey has been working on helping Tattered Cover with its financial woes.

The half-century-old company has suffered serious economic blows in recent years, during leadership transitions, boycotts over how it handled the Black Lives Matter movement, worker discontent and a pandemic that has shaken retail.

Dempsey acknowledged the company's financial troubles to the Denver Business Journal, which first reported the news of his hiring. He did not respond to immediate requests for comment from Denverite.

He will be taking over day-to-day leadership operations from Margie Keenan, the chief financial officer, who took over day-to-day leadership but did not assume the CEO title after then-CEO Kwame Spearman entered the highly competitive Denver mayor's race.

Spearman's time in the position was marked with initial hope and then controversy, as complaints from workers rolled in.

Spearman, who professed a law-and-order politic, drew criticism from customers as he was running for office. Longtime progressive shoppers threatened boycotts over right-of-center positions he took during the race. At the same time, an anti-vaccine author falsely tweeted the store was not carrying her book, a claim former Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl amplified, causing threats of boycotts from the right.

In the last weeks of the general election, Spearman withdrew his candidacy after securing a spot on the ballot to support second-place candidate Kelly Brough. Spearman, who left his role at Tattered Cover soon after, is currently running for a Denver School Board at-large seat.

Dempsey's hire suggests the board of directors, a who's who of the city's business establishment, is committed to quickly turning finances around and addressing debt to publishers.

A quick look at the Tattered Cover Colfax branch's shrinking collection of books shows just how dire things have become for the legacy store that has championed the First Amendment, hosted some of the world's greatest authors and has been a reliable place to find hard-to-get books -- until recently, as the stock on the shelves has dwindled.

Booklovers citywide will be closely watching Dempsey to see if he can save the business -- something Spearman promised to do when he took over.

We updated this story to clarify that Dempsey ran as a former Republican candidate. 

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